Zimbabwe main opposition bemoans increased persecution

MDC Leader Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE

HARARE – MDC leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday vowed “enough is enough” as he warned that homes have become “dens of poverty”, accusing the government of mishandling the coronavirus outbreak and clamping down on civil liberties.

Chamisa attended the court appearance of his lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu, who was freed on Z$20,000 bail by a Harare magistrate.

Mpofu, arrested on Sunday, was accused of improperly luring a client from another law firm; filing an affidavit with a court by someone who “does not exist” and allegedly plagiarising the same affidavit to be used in a separate application.

His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said the charges were trumped-up.

“We must say enough is enough. We can’t continue like this. People are suffering with this perpetual (coronavirus) lockdown, with no clarity in terms of when it’s going to end,” Chamisa said, speaking to journalists outside the Harare Magistrates Court.

“People are actually locked down in their houses, their houses have become dens of poverty and prisons where they cannot pursue their livelihoods, so we have to make sure that we bring this to a stop,” he added, without elaborating on the course of action his party would take.

Chamisa, a lawyer himself, maintained that Mpofu did nothing wrong, and was “only doing his professional duties to represent those who are supposed to be represented.”

The MDC’s options to bring the pressure to bear on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime would appear to be limited for now, after the Zanu PF leader declared an indefinite lockdown which keeps the country under a virtual state of emergency.

Security was high in Harare, starting Tuesday when Mpofu was originally due to appear in court, the MDC said because police feared protests outside the court. Protests and any large gatherings remain prohibited under the country’s lockdown regulations.

Flashpoint … Prosecutor Michael Reza (right) accusing Mpofu’s lawyers of intimidating the court with public statements in support, absolving him

Mpofu appeared before magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi facing three counts of corruptly concealing a transaction from a principal and two counts of defeating the course of justice or alternatively perjury.

In the first count, the complainant is Venturas and Samukage Legal Practitioners, a lawfirm headed by Zanu PF’s Mudzi South MP Jonathan Samukange.

According to the prosecution, sometime in 2017, the managing director of a micro-finance company engaged the lawfirm through one of its professional assistants, Everson Samukange, to represent him in a civil matter.

Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners directed Mpofu to engage the client as an advocate to argue the case on their behalf, after which an instruction brief was entered into between the client and the legal firm.

The court heard that a few days later, Mpofu connived with Everson Samukange to divert the contract to their own personal advantage.

“The accused (Mpofu) did not disclose the transaction to the agent’s principal namely, Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners,” said the prosecution team headed by Michael Reza.

Everson Samukange, who left the law firm in August 2018 without notice, according to the prosecution, “then received the payment in the amount of US$6,000 directly into his personal Standard Chartered bank account from the client, which he later conveyed to the accused (Mpofu).”

Reza said the matter only came to light when a forensic audit was carried out on Everson’s bank account through the police, who were investigating a separate case of extortion, fraud and money laundering against Everson.

On the second count, the prosecution alleges that Mpofu connived with Goodlucky Tapiwa Makanza and Choice Damiso, who are still at large, to draft an affidavit in the name of Simbarashe Zuze who “does not exist.” The affidavit was filed at the Constitutional Court as part of a challenge to the appointment of Kumbirai Hodzi as Prosecutor General in January 2019.

The state alleges that Mpofu made it appear as if Zuze had sworn an affidavit before Damiso with help from Makanza, who professed to be his lawyer.

“Accused and Makanza went on to lodge the said founding affidavit at the Constitutional court before Honourable Justice Garwe bearing only the name of Simbarashe Zuze without any other identification details under case number CCZ 03/2019 to purport as if Simbarashe Zuze was challenging the appointment of the current Prosecutor General of Zimbabwe,” said Reza.

Reza argued Mpofu intended to nullify the appointment of Hodzi on the basis of a “fictitious person”, which Mpofu’s lawyer Mtetwa said was being denied.

Mpofu, who was representing Zuze in the application, abandoned it filed it anew, this time on behalf of Harare lawyer Joshua Chirambwe. The prosecution claims this was designed to defeat the course of justice by “disturbing investigations” into the existence of Zuze.

The prosecution claims the affidavit filed by Chirambwe was nearly identical to Zuze’s, further alleging it was “plagiarised.”

Mtetwa said there was no offence disclosed by the third charge.

During the lengthy and feisty bail hearing, in which over a dozen lawyers turned up in court causing a temporary adjournment, Reza accused Mpofu’s legal team and the Law Society of Zimbabwe LSZ of bullying the court by issuing public statements exonerating him.

He had challenged bail, arguing that Mpofu’s co-accused were still “on the run” and he could interfere with witnesses. Mpofu was also a man of means and connections, Reza argued, and would flee if granted bail.

Mtetwa accused the prosecution of misleading the court. Makanza, she said, was at the police station when Mpofu was arrested. – ZimLive